Partner Spotlight: Milwaukee Christian Center

Partner Spotlight: Milwaukee Christian Center

Having fun at Milwaukee Christian Center's Senior Program!

January 16, 2018

Written by Katie Kuhn, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Milwaukee Christian Center (MCC) is a United Way-funded program partner in the areas of education and financial stability, and has been since 1949! The programs at MCC that receive United Way funding are the Emergency Food Pantry, Senior Program, and Youth Development Program.

This is the first in a series of blogs highlighting United Way-funded partners across the region. If you have a favorite United Way partner agency, let us know in the comments! You can see a full list of United Way program partners by clicking here.

Mission: The Milwaukee Christian Center (MCC) believes all people deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity. We exist to move people beyond the challenges of poverty by offering programs and services that are life-affirming and supportive.

Founded: 1921

Tell us about the community members you serve—who they are, why they use your program(s), any fun facts.

MCC supports 6,500+ Milwaukee youth, families, and older adults through its youth development, housing, older adult support, and food security efforts each year. While located on Milwaukee’s near south side—home to Milwaukee’s densest, and most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods—MCC serves low-income populations across the city.

With a special emphasis on providing services that are culturally appropriate and linguistically accessible, MCC serves youth, families, and older adults of all backgrounds and faiths. This is especially important in MCC’s food pantry and after school programs—which serve a high percentage of Spanish speaking families—and MCC’s Senior Program—which supports  Milwaukee’s Hmong and Lao older adult refugee population.

What does “success” look like for Milwaukee Christian Center?

Success at MCC takes many different shapes and forms. For some, like Deborah, success is defined by gaining stability to take the next step forward. After months of unemployment, Deborah came to MCC’s food pantry in crisis, unable to feed her four children. MCC provided her food in a respectful, dignified setting, and connections to employment opportunities in her neighborhood. Deborah, buoyed by the pantry’s support, persisted, and after a few months, secured a job. In her words, “After you’ve been unemployed for so long, you start to second guess your abilities. This job has given me my confidence and self-worth back.”

For others, like Vatsana, success is staying connected to others, learning new skills, and fulfilling hopes and dreams. Navigating a new culture and language are especially challenging barriers for Milwaukee’s older adult resettled refugees. This was true for Vatsana who sought a new life in Milwaukee after many years as a Lao refugee in a Thai camp. Since she relocated, MCC’s Senior Program has become a part of her daily life. Here she meets friends, enjoys a freshly prepared Southeast Asian-style lunch, shares concerns with a nurse on a weekly basis, and exercises.

After a recent fall, Vatsana feared losing her independence. Determination, hard work, and the support of MCC staff helped Vatsana rejoin her friends at MCC’s Senior Program. This October, she even completed MCC’s falls prevention program which provided her strategies to stay safe. “Falling frightens me,” she admits, “but the staff at MCC knows me so well. It’s because of them that I am still here, enjoying activities and lunch with my friends”. 

How does United Way funding help you achieve your mission?

Hopes and dreams at MCC are as diverse as the populations it serves. Vatsana has maintained independence in her golden years, while Deborah has kindled hope for her kids and the future. In both cases, United Way’s support has provided people in need compassion, dignity and opportunities to flourish.

United Way’s impact is especially felt in MCC’s after school program where youth like Lucía, a 16 year-old who has attended since elementary school, now lead in several exciting ways. In addition to serving as mentor and confidant to younger peers as a summer camp counselor for the past three summers, Lucía has led dance classes, collaborated with other teens to host city-wide youth art shows, and will be part of an exciting new project to create a community mural in her neighborhood this summer.

Shaped by the many opportunities to explore her own interests and grow as a leader, Lucía leads younger peers with confidence, inspiring them to push their comfort zone and to be their own person. In this way, United Way’s investment lives on, paving a clear pathway for youth to determine not only their future, but that of their community. 

How can a volunteer get involved?

Several opportunities exist to get involved in MCC’s work. Visit United Way’s volunteer website to sign up for one of the following opportunities:

Provide a meal for MCC’s older adults. Groups and or individuals are needed to help prep, serve, and clean up a meal for 50-65 adults Monday- Friday between 9:30 am –1 pm.

Become a shopping assistant in MCC’s emergency food pantry. Guide families through MCC’s “Choice” pantry as they select items that best meet their families’ needs. English/Spanish bilingual shopping assistants are especially in need!

Tutor youth at MCC’s after school program. Help is needed from 4-5 pm, Mon.-Fri. at MCC’s Youth Development Program at Kosciuszko Community Center.

For more information, please contact Carol at 414-902-5383;  

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